When we first applied for college, many of us heard it was unlikely we would find a job when we graduated. When we first got to college, professors told us our career paths were competitive and we probably would not end up working in the field we studied.
So, what was our response? We started treating college like school instead of treating college like a job.
We as the Scroll editorial board believe the “real” work begins when students start seeing college as their career and stop viewing it as a set of classes.
The New York Times reported on March 9 that the U.S. added 313,000 jobs in February 2018, with significant improvements across low-, middle- and high- wage industries.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that for people ages 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher, the unemployment rate was 2.5 percent in January 2017, which is the same as 2016.
A Forbes article suggested this 2.5 percent unemployment rate for college graduates is close to the “frictional unemployment rate,” which is estimated at 2 to 2.5 percent. Economists say the frictional unemployment rate is caused by the time it takes to transition from one job to another.
This friction is normal. Because we are all free to choose where we want to work, natural unemployment gaps occur. The unemployment rate for recent college graduates is mostly frictional.
I am not trying to discount the recent graduates you know who cannot find a job suitable to their skill level and field. I understand that this happens. What I am saying is that our future in the workforce may not be as dreary as people told us it will be.
Therefore, we need to prepare for it.
Many of us have developed an attitude of viewing school as an unprofessional environment. Our assignments are just assignments, group projects are unrealistic and showing up to class is optional. Some students tend to skate through their workload, doing as little work as possible.
Once employed, we will have assignments in our career field. We will work with colleagues to troubleshoot and solve problems. We will be expected to show up on time for meetings. We already know all of this, but we think these habits will suddenly form once we start a “real” job.
We should practice these habits now because I am sure you would rather make mistakes in college than in the workforce; it is much less risky.
Recently, a professor showed my class an article written by Maryellen Weimer, a professor at Pennsylvania State University. The article, titled “A Memo to My Students Re: College and the Real World,” asks students to not assume that real work only happens after they graduate.
When we think a project is not beneficial, we do not put effort into it. And I agree; I do not always see the point of some assignments. Sometimes they seem like busy work or a waste of time. I found it especially hard to care about foundations courses with no connection to my major.
I get it, but I am not talking about that. I am talking about the practicum and major credits you waste by doing the bare minimum because it is not “real” work.
Group work is often frustrating and seems unbeneficial to both the students who do the work and the students who do not. Students who do all the work learn the material, but do not learn collaborative skills. The students who do nothing learn nothing. Chances are you have done both in various projects over the course of your education. However, we think at our “real” jobs we — and everyone else — will actively participate in collaborative projects.
Ask any professional adult you know: that is not true.
In the workforce, you will not have midterm tests where you memorize information and erase it from memory the moment the test ends. You will actually need a working knowledge of everything you are taught.
So, why not start that knowledge now?
I took a public relations class where we worked with a real client to produce a public relations plan for their business. Some members of the class spoke about their plan as if it was not a “real” PR plan. What about the plan was not real? They set measurable goals, implemented strategies and produced actual content, but because it was an assignment, it was not “real” to them.
Your assignments are as real as you make them. You are responsible for your own college experience.
Weimer says it best at the end of her memo:
“You may decide that a course isn’t important or that an assignment doesn’t matter. That’s your call. But please, don’t base that decision on the assumption that what’s happening in college isn’t ‘real work’ that doesn’t matter in the ‘real world.’”